Throwing back the covers may feel like a Herculean feat when it’s still dark outside. But during my seven years (and counting) of commitment to my morning sweat date, I’ve come to find the effort is well worth it.
My family moved from Canada to the Middle East when I was 13, and due to culture shock, initial unhappiness, and just plain laziness, I gained a lot of weight. As a kid I’d been super active, but once we moved, the opportunities for physical activity weren’t as plentiful as they’d been for me back home. At 16, I decided to do something about it. I vowed to lose the weight I’d gained by replacing the junk in my diet with nutritious foods. I started running on a nearby track and played golf about five times each week. My family also purchased an elliptical trainer and a rowing machine, and I made a one-hour non-negotiable cardio date with these machines every morning. That hour before anyone else in my house woke up was my me-time. And it didn’t take long before I noticed the scale tipping—this time in my favor.
Two years and 70 pounds later, I was back in Canada, running races for my university’s varsity cross-country team and training to become a group fitness instructor. Even today, I find time for some physical activity well before the sun comes up—whether it’s running, strength training, teaching spin classes, or doing yoga. Sure, it’d be nice to lie in bed a little longer on some days, but that would mean postponing my workout until later when other commitments might get in the way.
And it turns out there are a lot of other early risers out there! Last year, a new member walked into my 6 am spin class and said to me, “I don’t know how you get up this early and have enough energy to work out.” Still, she was determined to develop her cardiovascular fitness. Since she didn’t have time to get to the gym after work, she turned up to my Monday morning class almost every week without fail. Now she even shows up at the gym before I do to squeeze in some strength training before we hop on the bikes. How’s that for a positive life change!
10 Tips for Becoming a Morning Gym-Goer
- Schedule it. You probably wouldn’t miss an appointment with your doctor, your dentist, or your hairdresser. Just like these appointments, make your morning exercise session something you can’t skip.
- Get out your gear the night before. That way, you won’t arrive at the gym without socks or with your shirt inside-out.
- Write it down. Jot down an exact workout plan before going to bed. When you wake up, you won’t have to think about what machine to do next or how long you’re going to run.
- Consider a workout you have to pay for. I used to work out with a trainer at 5 am, and some days it was very tempting to stay in bed. But then I’d think about how much money I’d waste if I missed a session, and a few minutes later I was out the door and on my way. A commitment to personal training sessions or small group fitness workouts like TRX might help make sure you get out of bed.
- Find a buddy. Maybe it’s a friend you already know, or maybe it’s someone you meet on your first early-morning trip to the gym. Make a commitment to each other that you’ll show up and hold each other accountable.
- Make it a competition… with a reward, of course! If you and a gym buddy are both on a quest to make early exercise dates a habit, come up with a little challenge. Maybe you’ll decide the first one to miss a day has to do 20 extra push-ups. If you’re working out solo, treat yourself to new gym gear after a solid month’s worth of commitment.
- Do a class. Many gyms offer one-hour classes that start around 6 am. Since no one wants to be the person that walks out in the middle of the class, I’d be willing to bet you’ll stay through the end.
- Take baby steps. Start by setting back your alarm by five minutes this week. Next week, go for another five. You’ll be getting up an hour earlier before you know it.
- Have something tasty to look forward to. Some experts say the golden window for post-workout nutrition is 30 to 60 minutes after we finish exercising, so make breakfast your next priority. Try a blended smoothie with greens, protein powder, and frozen berries or a parfait with granola, yogurt, and fresh fruit.
- Preserve those endorphins! Make great feelings last by writing them down. The next time you think hitting snooze sounds like a better idea than lacing up, read what you wrote and remind yourself how on-top-of-the-world you felt last time. Then get moving!
All right, now get some R&R. I’ll see you bright and early!